After months of freezing, starving and eventually cannibalizing one another, in February of 1847 the survivors of the Donner Party were rescued by fellow Americans from California. Thirteen year old Virginia Reed was among them, and although she was skin and bones, and barely alive, one of the young men who saved her asked her to marry him. She declined, but was a bride within a year and had nine children. Virginia Street in downtown San Jose is named for her. Three months after her rescue she wrote her cousin Mary back in Springfield, Illinois, “Tell the girls that this is the greatest place for marrying they ever saw and that they must come to California if they want to marry.” (From Bernard DeVoto’s “The Year of Decision, 1846”. That is a book you should read if you’re interested in this part of the country.)
The Far West has always been a good place for a girl who wants to marry. The men who explored and eventually settled it wanted wives, and families, but it was a tough sell. When women did show up they were treated well, and the culture of the West has always been partial to the fair sex. At least, that’s the way I see it.
And, of course, it stretches all the way back to the founding of this country in Virginia. When the Jamestown survivors finally figured out how to make a living, by growing tobacco, the colony started to modestly prosper. But wives were needed, and the first boat load of them arrived, around two hundred strong, in about 1619. They were young and healthy women recruited for the task in urban England, mainly, and upon arrival they were all immediately paired up and married off. The women who undertook that adventure are among the Founding Mothers of America, and many of us are descended from them. The men who came here first always understood that you can’t have a society without women, and it’s best to treat them right if you expect them to come to the New World. At least if they’re English women, who were as liberated as much as any woman in the 17th century was.
Because these women were English, they created a society that was based on the Absolute Nuclear Family, which the ancient English had adopted from their Anglo-Saxon invaders. This meant that every woman was free to choose. And when she chose a husband, he was expected to carve out a living for their family, and acquire a homestead apart from his parents or hers. And when they had children of their own none of them were automatically entitled to anything from their parents. They might, or might not, inherit. These were large families back then, and the younger boys were on their own. This is why early Americans were always land hungry. Every new generation needed more land. You could say that the tipping point in favor of the American Revolution was the British determination to prevent the Americans from spreading West, into lands reserved for the Indians. George Washington personally “owned” vast land tracts in the west, and he didn’t want to give them up.
Because of the Founder’s Effect, the attitudes of the first settlers of this country became the basis for our American culture. The Absolute Nuclear Family is the American family. And women have always been held in high regard by actual American men.
I think Trump has always objectified women, and it’s one source of my dislike of him. When he was younger his motto with women was “Treat ’em like s—.” He apparently was a serial adulterer, and liked to brag about the well known married women he slept with. Oh, and if you aren’t a super model, you aren’t up to the Donald’s standards. Add it all up, and it’s no wonder he’s got a problem with women voters. They can see right through him.
Women will save us from Trump.